She inspires us…

On the day our daughter was born, we knew that she was a miracle in every sense of the word. My husband and I had spent 5 years trying to have children and the doctors had basically given up on us. Against all odds, she arrived and we happily showed her off to all of our friends and family. She was beautiful and blessed us with her engaging personality, cheerful exuberance and endless energy. Life moved along and we prepared to welcome our next child, a son. He was born 3 years later, with health issues requiring hospital says and operations. We were completely immersed in his care. So much so, that we were oblivious to the signs of hearing loss that our daughter had been exhibiting. Looking back, there were signs of hearing loss since birth, but as first-time parents, we did not pay much attention to them. She was a happy and engaging baby…..

Our daughter turned 3 and was talking non-stop, albeit not very well, and, with what we now know to be extensive, non-age appropriate, articulation issues. We decided to have her hearing tested. My husband and I were shocked and heartbroken to find out that she had mild to moderate sensorineural hearing loss. When the ENT indicated that she would require hearing aids for the rest of her life, I was heartbroken. My beautiful little girl would have to wear hearing aids!!!! My biggest concern at that time was the aesthetic issue. How incredibly uninformed and naïve I was. What we have come to understand since then is that aesthetic issues are the least of the issues our daughter will have to face. Understanding what is being said, when much of what she hears is distorted or “mumbled”, and communicating with the world, are challenges that are significantly greater. A progressive hearing loss adds to that concern.

At the age of 3½, we enrolled our daughter in our local school districts’ Special Needs Program and continued her in normal pre-school. Despite the test scores which placed her 2 years behind in articulation and language, she performed well, academically equal to her hearing peers. My husband and I thought she was progressing well. However, at the time, we did not understand the complexity of hearing loss, and how challenging not just academics, but everyday life, was and would always be for her.

Almost 2 years later, a phone call from a parent in our neighborhood opened our eyes to options in communication and education that we did not know existed. This parent asked questions about our daughter, her needs, her abilities etc. Questions that I was startled by because quite honestly, I could not answer them. She told me about her hearing impaired child and a school he was attending named Childs Voice. I listened and assumed that her sons hearing loss must have been worse my daughters. I explained to her that my daughter had performed well in a “normal” classroom and had just been cleared for kindergarten. I really did not think that she needed to attend a “special” school.

Luckily, I was persuaded to at least take a look at this school and the oral option available for my child. I was impressed by the level of interaction and the quality of communication that the children were having with their teachers. I was amazed at the way the deaf and HOH children were talking, and talking well. I will admit, I was also a bit scared at the level of articulation and the structure of speech that every person/teacher in the school expected of these hearing impaired children. My daughter sat in with some peers and my heart sunk. I knew at that very moment, that she was not speaking as well as she could, she was not communicating on par with even her hearing impaired peers. As I watched my daughter interact with the teachers and other hearing impaired children for this very brief visit, I knew that we had to get her into this school….and we did. Our daughter has been attending Childs Voice for almost a year and we are amazed at her progress. Her language skills and articulation have blossomed. Most importantly, she loves going to school each day. The curriculum is challenging, yet fun and the school is bright, happy and cheerful…..just like my daughter. We are thankful to have found this school, a place of understanding and inspiration, which supports our hopes for a future without limitations for our daughter.

As a parent, what I am beginning to learn, is how important it is to understand the far reaching impact hearing loss has on our children. This is, at times, an unnerving task. It was much easier to accept the fact that my daughter was performing reasonably well, than to question what more could we be doing for her. I am humbled to be the parent of a hearing impaired child. As I watch my daughter meander happily and cheerfully through each day I wonder …How does she do it? How is she not exhausted by the endless attempts to understand what is being said? My daughter is an example of strength and persistence, she inspires me.

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